Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bending The Laws And Other News

Approaching the end of his Senate term, TN Sen. Bill Frist suddenly decides to dump stock in his family's company HCA -- just weeks before the stock value plummeted. His office says the Senator talked to no "HCA officials" just before the sale, but he certainly talked to someone. In year 11 of his 12-year term he is NOW concerned about not having a conflict of interest? In fact HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital company, has had a vast number of insiders selling their stock like mad in recent months and the timing here is more than coincidence. Will it be a whitewash? More than likely. Details are here and here and here.

Hurricane news has pushed aside other news, especially the reports regarding our military's actions and resulting trials after the Military Intelligence and others high-ranking officials tossed aside the Geneva Conventions. Now, a file clerk, who was dating a commanding officer and now carries that man's child is facing a harsh sentence. At least her trial allows for much-suppressed evidence to be brought forward. Perhaps you believe guards take orders from file clerks. More on the story here.

Real pictures from the Iraq and Afghanistan battlefields are available on a U.S. porn site, submitted by soldiers. Yeah, they are disturbing and the following story has some very adult language, so be warned. A majority of the subscribers to the site are from the military, according to the story in The Nation.

Wars always create hellish conditions, realities few of us experience, and I am grateful for those who serve, and astonished by those whose sacrifices are known and those which often go unknown. After 55 years of requests, one North Korean vet, who was also a POW during World War 2, was given the Medal of Honor on Friday. The story of Tibor Rubin, told in this NPR report, is hard to even conceive -- he joined the U.S. military after he was freed and saved many lives in a Korean POW camp. Much more detail is here at The Mudville Gazette, and thanks to Instapundit for the link.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Camera Obscura/Battle Royale

Gird your loins, dear reader. The Camera is On. Ready?

One thing I like about the website Crooks and Liars is they serve up television in short bites, showcasing (sur)real moments. And if I'm not watching a movie or a fictional show, or jes' cruisin' the surf made by the wake of talking heads who want to sell me a spin point, a doormat, a diet, a scheme, or a disaster, then I'm here doing the Web-Walk. and the television is off.

Crooks and Liars gets me the highlights reel. If I'm in front of the television for long, it puts me to sleep. Save yourself some time and check them out.

That said, here's the movie pick of the week. It's an import, which was a box office bonanza until government officials made distributors yank it out of the theatres. It falls in the genre of the Teens Gone Wild with a disturbing and shocking satire, merging with movies like "Lord of the Flies," "Blackboard Jungle," and "A Clockwork Orange." The genre is really large and includes some old favorites of mine like "Wild In The Streets," (1968) where the voting age is lowered to 15 and adults are hustled into LSD camps for some re-grooving, baby. I also must mention another fave, Lindsay Anderson's "If..." also from 1968, the movie that brought Malcolm McDowell to the screen and revolution to the room.

The pick is the "Battle Royale" (Japanese, 2000), based on the novel and the manga of the same name. Tip of the hat to my brother David for pointing this one out to me -- thanks DP. The novel is as stark and terrifying a story as I've ever read. The movie captures some of the crazy manga style and stays close to novel, written by Koushun Takami.

Its set in a Japan collapsing from an economic crisis and a social one as well. The school system is overrun with chaos and the adults have no authority. So the government creates a new law, in hopes of bringing discipline -- each year, a class of high schoolers is selected for battle of survival, taken to an isolated and evacuated island, given random weapons and explosive neck collars. The rules give the kids three days to fight to the death until only one is alive - if they don't fight they all die by collar detonation, even if there are only two or three left, the detonation threat remains to urge them to kill to the last boy or girl. Yeah, you thought the social order at your school was tough.

I'm not going to say much more about it -- suffice to note it is a brutal battle with graphic violence. Friends and cliques can bring hope or death. So no, it isn't for every taste, but for the Teens Gone Wild genre, it is an impressive entry for the 21st Century. The downside here is that even the Special Edition DVD available in the U.S. has some truly funky sub-title problems, but it isn't too distracting.

And it is loaded with Japanese stars, like Kitano Takeshi (Kitano), you have seen him before. This is the actor that plays as "Vic Ramono" on MXC on Spike TV. The rest of the cast is comprised of Japanese teen pop idols. Most notably, the gorgeous Chiaki Kuriyama (Chigusa), who was Gogo Yubari in "Kill Bill Vol 1."

The director is the late Kinji Fukasuka, a prolific director who died in 2003, and was the director of countless Yakuza gang thrillers and utterly hilarious science fiction movies like the 1968 "The Green Slime" and the 1978 bizzare "Star Wars" imitation, "Message From Space" with Sonny Chiba and Vic Morrow. "Battle Royale" has a strong Kubrick style in both composition and music.

Next week, I'm headed to a Tuesday night screening of writer/director Joss Whedon's "Serenity" based on his cancelled-too-quick TV series "Firefly". The screening is courtesy of Glenn Reynolds and Michael Silence and I groveled loudly on No Silence Here for tickets. The review will be here next Friday.

Here's your movie quote of the week:
"Show me an American that can keep his mouth shut and I'll eat him!"
Meet John Doe, 1941

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The End is Nigh For Old Journalism

Once again, SKB (R. Neal) has a great post about how strong and vigorous the Internet and the Riders on the Blog have become. The collapse of the Old Media is continuing and technology has created an excellent way for people to talk to each other again, without censorship. The downside is that not everyone yet has access to the Web. That is changing rapidly, however, and the Truth is spilling out everywhere and cannot be ignored.

Are there biased reports and opinions? Yes -- that's another plus though -- as this returns Thought and Participation to active duty by readers worldwide.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

East Tennessee in the News

The workers in East TN and elsewhere are waiting for FEMA to respond so they can get to work on making mobile homes for the devastated Gulf Coast according to this news report. An increase production line at the White Pine facility will likely be adding workers ASAP.

James Bryant, of Rutledge, Tenn., was a very sick man, with a hereditary bleeding disorder similar to hemophilia, hepatitis C from blood transfusions, heart problems, diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver, according to the Tennessean report. When his medications were cut back due to TennCare, says his angry wife, he fell ill and then died just after being released from the hospital. This case is deeply disturbing and many folks fear it won't be the only incident.

The Hamblen Co. School Board, begging for more money, has voted to increase their Superintendent's salary to $98,310, plus expenses and benefits. His two Assistant Superintendents' salaries and perks are also on the rise (positions the current Superintendent created). The totals for their offices alone are staggering. And they also expect the city and the county to issue even more money for a segregated "international school" which will require shuffling students back and forth from their normal schools twice a day. The costs of adding yet another facility is enormous as well, though the board also claims they cannot fund enough teaching jobs now at existing facilities. Expect them to blame the city and county officials for funding problems the school board itself creates. The county's budget currently is consumed by the school system, with over 85% of their total operating budget going to one agency - schools. But MORE is the only word in their vocabulary. And they will wail and complain that this community FAILS to support education. The plan will be promoted with the typical media bias. Maybe the school board needs MORE residents to focus on their poor management abilities and quit playing the Blame Game. With the Superintendent now a board member on the Chamber of Commerce, the deck is stacked against the taxpayers. The state Dept. of Economic and Community Development shows the median income in the county is hovering at $24,000. The community is left with far more questions than solutions and some true leadership is desperately needed.

The Real National Disaster

It is obscene. The leaders in Washington and their mealy-mouthed toadies and spin-doctors/lobbyists fitfully try and hide the horrendous failures of the Federal response to the disaster in the Gulf Coast. It reveals a systemic failure, from the Congress who blithely appointed a former Bush campaign worker to head FEMA to yet another round of corporate gorging at taxpayer expense.

Facing South notes the reports on massive mismanagement of FEMA, prior to the Katrina disaster. FEMA lawyers are now refusing to make public documentation about he millions of dollars given out in Florida alone. Florida's Sun-Sentinel investigation into allegations about FEMA are simply shocking.

The wagons now circled around these failures sounding a cry of blame for the Mayor of New Orleans and the Louisiana Governor is idiotic at best.

And speaking of the hollow noises, Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist could not appear more out of touch given his recent statements that "The investment at the federal level will be huge, but it will even be larger by several fold by the private sector, adding "Tax incentives for businesses and lowered regulatory burdens for builders will be key to the recovery."

Oh, does he mean the billions spent on no-bid contracts to the vice-president's company, Halliburton?

Maybe he means the mismanagement and goldrush mentality overwhelming the Gulf Coast.

Maybe he was thinking of the tax-breaks for the Fluor Corporation, which, in 1994, Fluor paid a $3.2 million fine for "submitting heavily padded repair bills for work on Navy bases after hurricane Hugo. And according to this press report::
While Fluor bills itself as an "environmental services company" environmentalists might differ. Fluor manages the government's Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington, one of the most heavily polluted sites in North America. Since Fluor took over the site in the mid-1990s, workers and local citizens have charged the company with cost cutting measures that have created potential environmental and health concerns. The company responded by firing whistleblowers and shutting down the Hanford Joint Council, a public forum established eight years ago to air employee and local government concerns over plant safety. (Ref: Gov. Accountability Project)
Noteworthy: On March 10 of this year, the United States Supreme Court rebuffed an effort by Fluor to block a suit by eleven Hanford pipe fitters who claimed they were either terminated or harassed for complaining about safety issues. The pipe fitters worked at the high-level nuclear waste tank farms at the Hanford Nuclear Site.
Fluor's Hanford contract was set to expire at the end of 2001 but the Department of Energy has extended Fluor Hanford's contract through 2006. The six-year contract is worth approximately $3.8 billion, with incentives for Fluor to earn up to about $168 million in profit.

Tip of the hat to Facing South for much of the info cited here.

And Sen. Frist, we know your plan is for the taxpayers to get the shaft again. I guess he hasn't noticed the millions and millions of dollars Americans have BEEN donating and the tens of thousands of volunteers who are also on the scene lending any help they can. It's this Spirit of America that Washington needs to model.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Talk Like A Pirate Day!!

This here post today be part of an International Day, it be. Some year back, no man knows the full history save one or two, September 19 be now known as International Talk Like A Pirate Day. You can drop anchor here at the official port.

Me own first encounter with swashbucklin' and adventure and the search for treasure, like most, came from Mr Robert L. Stevenson, in "Treasure Island." The story moves with waves of adventure and terror and the names Admiral Benbow Inn, Billy Bones be carved into the spars o' my imagination. I knew I never wanted no man, sailor or no, to place a bit of paper in me hand, a paper simply known as The Black Spot. Cap'n Disney cleaned up the tale, but you can read every last word of it yerself online if ya go to this location here.

And don't be thinkin' this here day be fer tales of terror nor deadly coves. Hit be fer you to say words like "Aaaaarrrrrgggh" and "peg-leg" and such. You can even make a donation fer the victims of Katrina at the home page. At that marina location mentioned above, there is plenty to give ya a smile and to help ya make the most of the day. Old fashioned nonsense ya say? Then cast yer eyes onward and read from the site Cap'n Slappy's Pirate Rap:

The Slappy Rap

I'm a pirate - a pirate I be
and just like Johnny Depp it is a pirate's life for me.
I sail upon the oceans and I take the seven seas
and I scoff at false authority and bring it to its knees!

Yo Yo Yo HOOOOOOooooooo!
Yo Yo Yo HO!


Yo Yo Yo HOOOOOOooooooo!
Yo Yo Yo HO!

I kick it with my crew yeah we kick it at our leisure
we're lookin' for adventure but we really want some treasure
and if we swash our buckle - yeah we're doin' that for pleasure
Aye, we'll talk alot like Shakespeare and his play Measure for Measure

Yo Yo Yo HOOOOOoooooo!
Yo Yo Yo HO!

Off the mizzenmast!

Yo Yo Yo HOOOOOoooooo!
Yo Yo Yo HO!

Some people think we're nasty and we're horrible and horrid
fightin' battles on the beaches and we always leave the shore red
with the blood nameless rabble and we're taken what they store-ed
while we pummel the resistors with our savage fists and forehead!

Yo Yo Yo HOOOOoooo!
Yo Yo Yo HO!

With me Blunderbuss

Yo Yo Yo HOOOOoooo!
Yo Yo Yo HO!

Shake your booty!

Yo Yo Yo HOOOOoooo!
Yo Yo Yo HO!


Yo Yo Yo HOOOOoooo!
Yo Yo Yo HO!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Residents Must Demand Representation

As I told you on Wednesday, the State Attorney General had twice notified local Sessions Judge Bacon and the local utility board that it was illegal for him to serve on the utility board. Today, the local paper "announced" the Judge's resignation from the board. How long would he have served if the news had not been reported here? How many other problems go ignored?

An examination of several government appointed positions and boards throughout the city and county should be demanded by residents. A quick look would show the residents and the State AG that only a handful of people get appointed to most jobs. This handful gets passed around from job to job and have been for decades. How many other conflicts of interest would be revealed?

Why are the local residents excluded on a constant basis? A voter turn-out in the last city elections of 7% shows zero confidence in leadership, and zero belief that the voting process works.

Can it be that elected officials want to keep the public as ill-informed as possible?
After years of failed promises from other bodies, the County government is still the ONLY elected body to broadcast their public meeting.

Why is the investigation into using city vehicles by police officers as they make jaunts out to a Memphis strip joint being swept aside? Why would an investigation into promotion practices by MPD he held behind closed doors of the Civil Service board? Why wouldn't those elected to serve as city officials hold public hearings? Isn't that a powerful way to show they will not tolerate inappropriate behavior? Thank goodness there are members of the MPD who are concerned, and there are also several elected officials and government employees who are willing to raise these questions. They know a few bad apples can have a devastating effect. They know, as do most citizens, those in positions in government must be held to a higher standard. Those who serve with distinction are surely troubled by the actions of those who seem to have lower standards.

Why is the brand new county jail annex already failing to meet the goals of its creation, holding fewer inmates than county commissioners were told? Are there efforts underway to create a regional prison in Hamblen County to 'correct' the massive overcrowding, especially since several area counties have had their jails decertified?

The conflicts of interest appear to be common as ice in the Arctic.